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Offline vitamin-d

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« on: January 06, 2011, 12:51:12 PM »
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« Last Edit: February 22, 2011, 12:49:56 PM by vitamin-d »
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Offline pickle

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Re: Can you be yourself?
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2011, 01:43:06 PM »
You know, I left Japan after two years because of similar issues.  I felt like I was starting to get too down on Japan, so I left for a couple years, but now I'm looking to go back.  I think I really needed the time away to appreciate everything else.  I think the experience also helped me here.  It doesn't feel so strange any more to talk lightly about things I would probably argue about with other people.  I can just enjoy being with someone without feeling like I need to share my opinions.  I just have different relationships with Koreans than I do with Westerners. 

Perhaps after some time away, you will also be ready to come back to Korea (whether it's in Korea or your own country's Korean population).

Offline amn34

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Re: Can you be yourself?
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2011, 02:03:50 PM »
It is always a struggle to integrate into a new society (especially one with language barriers) and retain the elements of yourself that existed in your former life.  It's a bit weird to think that my coteachers really don't know me at all, or that my students know a lot more about me than my coteachers, because I feel like I have to stay so guarded.  I hate that my students get yelled at if they call me by my name and not "teacher."  I think Koreans take great pride in their positions, and to be referred to by your career status is an honor, but it can feel to me like it's robbing me of my identity.  I have had wonderful conversations with my students about love, family, art, music, my boyfriend, etc.  I have had very few with teachers in my school.  It can be hard to cope with.  I know this is in no way helpful or constructive with regard to your situation, but I can relate.

Actually, I kind of think I'm losing my mind here.  I can't use the bathroom in my apartment at night any more because I think there's a ghost... and I don't believe in ghosts.  I have developed some irrational fears since arriving in Korea and upon reflection I think it all might be because I'm being creatively and vocally stiffed a bit, so that's all turning inward.  All the thoughts, concerns, feelings and personality that I would normally release back in the States just consumes itself inside of me.  Not a pleasant feeling.

Offline juskajo

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Re: Can you be yourself?
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2011, 02:19:50 PM »
wow.  so, everybody i meet is supposed to care what i have to say about every little thing?  i had no idea..

Offline rlecloux

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Re: Can you be yourself?
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2011, 02:28:04 PM »
I've been in Korea for several months, but I can already tell that it is unlikely that I will stay longer than one year and very very unlikely that I would stay beyond two.  This isn't due to the fact that I don't like Korea, Korean food, Korean culture, etc.  It's mostly due to the fact of what people have said on here... it's hard to completely be yourself here.  Now, for me it's usually very easy to adapt to new places and such, but I find here that I have to hide/lie about a huge part of my life: my sexuality.  Not being able to talk about certain interests is one thing, but the fact that I have to mask the fact that I am gay to all my co-workers and had to tell them I had a "girlfriend" instead of a boyfriend, for risk of losing my job (maybe it's not to this extreme, but I would definitely not be viewed in the same light), has absolutely killed me.  Luckily, my head teacher is very un-Korean in her thinking and is very open-minded and someone who I have been able to share this information with.  But, in a culture where asking personal questions such as "Do you have a girlfriend?" or "When will you get married?" is perfectly acceptable, it's impossible to 100% live my life and be who I am.  Seeing as that part of my life is an extremely low priority right now (I'm mostly focusing on professional development, traveling, and personally challenging myself in a new culture) it hasn't bothered me all too much, but I know in the long term it is something that will prevent me from fully being able to adjust/adapt to Korean society and culture.  It pains me that I have to lie about such a significant factor of my life but in this society and culture, it doesn't really seem like any other options exist. 

Offline constantinople

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Re: Can you be yourself?
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2011, 02:31:26 PM »
amn32, I felt the same way when I lived here a couple years ago, and needed to leave. I promised myself I'd never return, since I felt like a ghost of my former self. All my creativity, desire and hope vanished and I had no inspiration to rely on. So, I left. A year and a half later I returned and feel completely different. I realize now that whatever I was missing was not taken away from me by Korea or Koreans, as I thought was the case. Instead, I feel, it was me who basically mutilated myself creatively and wasn't able to see past my own depression. Sometimes going away for a couple months, or even years, refreshes you, and teaches that it's all inside you, not outside, that needs to be worked on.

Now, I feel I can be myself, because I no longer really care whether people here think I'm crazy. I no longer care whether people stare at me while I dance on the subway platform, listening to my favourite music. I no longer feel I need to pretend to be happy to my co-workers when something is wrong. I paint and write for myself, or if I want an opinion, I send something to friends at home or the few friends I have here. I wear what I want, and I eat what I want. There's a level of shame and guilt when we feel we can't be ourselves, as if what we are is abnormal and perverse. Actually, maybe that is what we truly are, each individual, yet, some of us, at some point in our lives, lose all sense of spontaneity and individualism and we become a number.

When I started dating in Korea, I was told that I should change this or that about myself because Korean people might not agree with it, or it might be too strange for them. When I listened to this awful advice I became depressed. Now I know better. Be yourself and you will attract people who are interested in what you have to say. Sure, maybe you won't be Mr. or Ms. Popular, but you'll have substance.
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Offline Davey

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Re: Can you be yourself?
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2011, 02:35:50 PM »
amn32, I felt the same way when I lived here a couple years ago, and needed to leave. I promised myself I'd never return, since I felt like a ghost of my former self. All my creativity, desire and hope vanished and I had no inspiration to rely on. So, I left. A year and a half later I returned and feel completely different. I realize now that whatever I was missing was not taken away from me by Korea or Koreans, as I thought was the case. Instead, I feel, it was me who basically mutilated myself creatively and wasn't able to see past my own depression. Sometimes going away for a couple months, or even years, refreshes you, and teaches that it's all inside you, not outside, that needs to be worked on.

Now, I feel I can be myself, because I no longer really care whether people here think I'm crazy. I no longer care whether people stare at me while I dance on the subway platform, listening to my favourite music. I no longer feel I need to pretend to be happy to my co-workers when something is wrong. I paint and write for myself, or if I want an opinion, I send something to friends at home or the few friends I have here. I wear what I want, and I eat what I want. There's a level of shame and guilt when we feel we can't be ourselves, as if what we are is abnormal and perverse. Actually, maybe that is what we truly are, each individual, yet, some of us, at some point in our lives, lose all sense of spontaneity and individualism and we become a number.

When I started dating in Korea, I was told that I should change this or that about myself because Korean people might not agree with it, or it might be too strange for them. When I listened to this awful advice I became depressed. Now I know better. Be yourself and you will attract people who are interested in what you have to say. Sure, maybe you won't be Mr. or Ms. Popular, but you'll have substance.

yeah, with dating, just be yourself. if he/she doesn't like you for who you are, move onto the next one. don't try to change yourself for one person when there are lots of options, although it's harder to find a gay partner in korea.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2011, 03:06:46 PM by daveyc18 »
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Offline constantinople

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Re: Can you be yourself?
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2011, 02:39:00 PM »
rlecloux, I feel your pain. However, it was in Korea, not at home, that I first came out to a co-worker (my co-teacher). I just had enough of hiding.

There's a point where we have to say enough is enough. We can't hide behind a lie all our lives, can we? It has gotten to a point where the way we (as in gay people) see ourselves is as abnormal because others "may" think that. How else can we feel when the "norm" is to get married by 30, have 2 kids and work in an office.

I know there's lots of fear, but we must look beyond that, no matter what our sexual orientation is, and at some point make the decision to be true to ourselves and others.
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Offline juskajo

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Re: Can you be yourself?
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2011, 10:30:22 PM »
i think it's a simple matter of separating your personal and professional lives. i'm sure most jobs in your home country expect you to put on a "work face" to some degree. same thing if your 70-year-old aunt gertrude asks you about your job in asia, you'll probably tell her all the cute, tame stuff you know she wants to hear and play down the part about getting wasted in bangkok, even though that may have been the highlight of your trip.

i've met plenty of koreans outside of work with whom i can discuss honest opinions about music or art or or politics or whatever, to whom i can i be my true self, but only because we happen to share those interests.   most koreans - most people - aren't the least bit interested in my story or "what i'm about", and why on earth do they need be?  we go through whatever social niceties that decency requires and move on.

Offline jcheng461

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Re: Can you be yourself?
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2011, 11:35:02 PM »
Coming from America, where I often wondered why Korean Americans and other "fresh off the boat" (people newly arriving in America) always stayed together and made friends with only each other. I often thought negatively of them for it. I.e. why are those Koreans only hanging out with Koreans? Now being in the reverse situation, basically "in their shoes", I can see why they did. It's because of what you are all talking about here. Working in a Korean work environment, we cannot expect to be received like we would our friends who understand us. They have their norms and expectations. We have ours. When we feel we don't belong, we find other foreigners who are much more likely to share our views and perspectives, and we hang out with them. By "we" I mean "myself" as I'm talking about my experience.

Offline wbrutus22

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Re: Can you be yourself?
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2011, 12:06:06 AM »
As a Haitian-American, I've certainly felt the exact opposite. Koreans want to know more about me, they watch my every move--they want to compare and contrast the portrayals of black males from the media. I sense it every where I go, but it's nothing I didn't expect before I came here. It has, in many ways, made allowed me to express myself even more because I often felt like I had something to prove in almost every conversation. By proving myself, I mean--literally illustrating the filter of mankind, that the character should be considered first before outside appearance.

Every culture puts on a "face" in many aspects of initial engagement. That must be understood--what is imperative is to learn the language and continue to make MORE Korean friends. The greatest way to assimilate is through language. America is a prime example--most of our local and national debates get bounced around in rhetoric, the twisting of semantics, and idioms. Americans have a hard time understanding what "American" is.

I think apologists need to be careful in deeming all valid discussions as some sort of negative feedback on Korea--these are concerns that SHOULD be spoken about. We deserve a thriving discussion for the betterment of the students and a safe teaching environment. It is without doubt that foreigners who visit the USA and any other country outside Korea, question the different "faces" we put on...heck, we question it too.

We are all part of the human condition...yes, you CAN be yourself. You may have to change your approach, read more positive experiences from other foreigners and take notes, create more Korean friends, and try your hardest to ignore the nationalistic disdain that may come your way at times.

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